Filmgoers bedecked in jeans and T-shirts, one with puppet in hand, crowd into the Cinema Arts Centre’s lobby and eagerly await the July 17 screening of Brett Sherris’ Summer Camp series.
Emceed by Brett Sherris, the camp’s founder and programmer, the Summer Camp screens double features mixed with a selection of vintage cartoons and trailers every Saturday throughout the summer. Sherris says his goal for the program—entering its fifth year—is to get back to the old-time movie-going experience.
“I am trying to bring back the communal experience of watching a movie with an audience [that is] not feeling embarrassed to react to it,” says Sherris from inside the Huntington Cinema’s projection room. He is prepping a reel of a Bugs Bunny cartoon for the 11 p.m. double feature. Sherris, a graduate of NYU’s film school, has a particular affinity for the double feature, a bygone staple from cinema’s golden age.
“The beauty of the double feature is that you can take two films out there which have been made decades apart or… simply a couple of years apart, and sometimes one film informs the other in some particular way,” he says.
The July 17 screening featured the pairing of the virtually unknown Night Warning with Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? which Sherris describes as “a classic Hollywood bitchfest.” The pairing of a lesser-known, low-budget film and a more recognizable film is typical of a double features at Summer Camp. Past double features this season have included The Exorcist and The Blood on Satan’s Claw, Jaws and Black Sheep and The Big Lebowski and Kingpin.
“[It’s] stuff that you don’t readily see in the theatres, stuff that you’d love to see on the big screen, but no one ever shows them,” says Pat Fitzgerald, a member of the “tribe,” a group of dedicated Summer Camp regulars. “That is the appeal.”
The Cinema’s Co-Director, Dylan Skolnick, says he thinks of Sherris as a part of the institution.
Pat’s wife, Kelly Fitzgerald, says the Cinema’s recently deceased Co-Director/Co-Founder Vic Skolnick wanted to keep all kinds of cinema alive. “Just because it’s a B-movie doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an audience,” she explains, adding that a lot of the fun comes from the audience. “As a rule, nobody cares if you yell back at the screen. It’s all part of the fun.”
Sherris wants his Summer Camp viewers to react to what he puts on the screen.
“I encourage people—within reason—to react, because I want to see what the experience I am putting up there is doing for them,” he says. “[Summer Camp is] not like cinema church…It’s supposed to be involving and if you don’t react to it, it’s not doing anything for you.”
Summer Camp is every Saturday at 11 p.m. at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington.